There are some things created in the universe designed to last longer than the mighty Sun itself. Art as an industry has churned out many artworks that are almost unearthly in their beauty, captivating one in a hauntingly ethereal manner.
One such masterpiece is the Starry Night by the master Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh, which left such an indelible stain on the industry that it still refuses to rub off. The composition is almost worshipped by any and all aspiring artists for the excellence it represents.
The Starry Night hides in its bosom inexplicable techniques and radiates a baffling luminosity, the reason for which still remains unexplainable. It would be a shame to merely look at the painting and not comprehend it in its entirety which is why we would like to give you a tour of it.
Background of the Starry Night
The Starry Night is the outpour of a troubled yet brilliant mind, constructed in the most severe and delicate human condition. Van Gogh had admitted himself at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence after a psychotic episode. He had mutilated one of his ears in the pangs of a mental breakdown.
This well-crafted to say the least, the composition you gawk at was actually crafted at the crack of dawn from his studio in the asylum. He had painted from memory from what he had seen from his bedroom window at night. The village was added by Van Gogh later as he felt it was an element the painting needed. The swirly pattern that can be seen in the night sky was something Vincent was experimenting with when he was working and living with the renowned artist, Paul Gauguin.
You would be surprised to know that Vincent intended this piece to be just a night study and even went to the extent of calling it a “failure.” His brother, Theo was an art dealer who used to send his masterpieces to be reviewed. Vincent used to send bundles of his work and often due to lack of penury; he used to take out less worthy pieces to cut down on postage costs. Guess what, he took out the Starry Night and even Theo criticized him for this painting being too focused on style.
Techniques Used in the Starry Night
Van Gogh is most known for the thick application of his paints all over the canvas called Impasto. It is the Italian word for “paste” or “mixture” for a painting technique in which the paint is lathered up extremely thickly due to which the impression of the brush stroke or the palette knife is evident.
Even though he was largely self-taught, he brilliantly inherited the style of Impressionists who toyed beautifully with light. If you observe his pieces, the light seems to pulse, flicker, and radiate oddly and unexplainably. By using quickly executed, prominent brushstrokes, Vincent was able to emulate how light moves onto a canvas that looks strikingly real. Moreover, the intensity of the colors used radiates ultimate luminance from the painting.
The oil-on-canvas painting is lit up by a star-filled light which takes up about three-quarters of the whole plane. Van Gogh utilizes a contrast in lines to indicate intense depth by sketching the city with quiet lines whereas the sky depicts swirly patterns. The village that he has depicted is made from calm and solid lines, making it an epitome of tranquility and peace amongst the ever-chaotic sky patterns.
The landscape is made to be uniform which clearly demarcates the city and features a flame-like object made up of moving lines. Lastly, he used dark blues with very less black to depict the night and more yellow-ish shades. But, it was his lack of blending that did the trick for the audience as it emulates a broken color effect which makes it look like the painting is moving.
Impact of the Painting
The swirly patterns in the night sky may communicate chaos but also, suggests that the sky is alive. Vincent wrote to his brother, “The starry night is more alive and more richly colored than the sky” which is exactly what he wants the onlooker to experience with the intense hues.
Many visitors to the painting at the Museum of Modern Art, New York often say that the painting seems to be moving. They are not analyzing it wrong as Vincent intended it to be that way. A perfect blend of his trademark impasto technique and the solid lines gave an impression that the nightscape is moving.
This is further reiterated by the broken color effect which aims to create a sense of movement and turbulence. Lastly, the vivid hues imbued in the Starry Night seem to vibrate as your gaze bounces from one color to another. This head-scratching nightscape is more different than any we have ever seen and is the perfect miscellany of realism and abstractionism in quantities easily digestible by the audience, making it captivating.
The Bottom Line
Someone who could barely sell his masterpieces now outlives his time on Earth with an expendable legacy which made him an icon of Modern Art. He took a mundane nightscape and filled it with swirling clouds and eddies of stars, making it so ethereal that Starry Night reproductions are always in demand so that everyone can take a piece of his magic.